Gunn Boys Varsity Hockey upset #6 seed Tilton School 5-4 in the NEPSAC Boys Ice Hockey Tournament quarterfinal at Deerfield Academy on March 1. The #3 seed Highlanders will face #2 Seed Holderness School on Saturday, March 4. The game will be played at 2:30 p.m. on an outdoor rink at Holderness in New Hampshire, which is under a winter storm warning, with heavy snow predicted.
Live stream link - NEPSAC Semifinals
Head Coach and Senior Associate Director of Admissions Craig Badger said he knew heading into the regular season that this year's team was good, “but I couldn't have predicted the hot start that we got off to. I think we started off 7-0. The season has been a lot of fun. They've been a really fun group of kids to coach. They all have great attitudes. They have a good time. It’s just been a really good, fun feeling all year.”
Gunn racked up 10 straight wins against Canterbury, Kent, Hotchkiss, New Hampton, Philips Exeter, Berkshire, Williston Northampton, and Trinity-Pawling, all before the Avon Christmas Classic in December. “We play one of the toughest schedules in all of New England," Badger said. "The teams out here are all really good. Regardless of what a team’s record is, they're all good, and they're all good enough to beat you on literally any given day. In the end, that makes the kids better players, it makes them better people, it teaches them that they have to show up and be ready to go and bring their best every single day.”
The Highlanders ended their regular season with a record of 19-9-5, after playing their final game against Berkshire School on February 25. That game ended with a score of 2-2 in overtime.
“We’ve had a tough year this year in terms of overtime,” said Badger, who pointed to the team’s 3-2 win over Westminster School in overtime on February 22 as one of the season’s memorable moments. “We’ve had 10 overtime games. Up until that point, we hadn’t won an overtime game yet. So I think that was memorable obviously for that reason, and also that the guys just kept at it. One of our strengths as a team is that we do just keep after it. They don't let the previous game’s results bother them in those moments. And Westie is a team that is going to the Elite 8 Tournament, so they’re a good team and it was a battle. And being able to get over that hump and win an overtime game was a lot of fun.”
The team’s training helps them to push through challenging moments. “We tell them every day that it’s our job to show up and play 54-plus. You have to go into every game expecting to play that plus. And we’re deep. We run four lines, which a lot of teams can’t, at least in the way that we do. So that helps us, but in general we harp on them to play with confidence. You play with energy, not emotion, and you keep that energy high, and you play with confidence regardless of what happens. Because in every game, good things are going to happen and bad things are going to happen. You can blow a team out and there’s still bad things that happen during the game and mistakes that are made. You can’t let any of that stuff impact how you approach your next shift.”
During the regular season, Alexander LoGuercio ’24, Jacob Rothman ’24 and Mark Pizzo ’24 emerged as the team’s leading scorers, making double-digit jumps over last season in terms of point production. Among the other standout players this year were Ryan Crowshaw ’23, a four-year senior, and Mike Pizzo ’23, Peter Unger ’23, William Welburn ’23, and Mike Markowski ’23, all three-year seniors.
“We’re so deep,” Badger said. “We have 12 forwards with double-digit points. We’ve got three defensemen with over 20 points. Both goalies played a significant number of games this year and both did well.”
Going into the quarterfinal, Badger was confident: “I think that when we play well, when we play our game, that we are the best team in New England. But we have to play our game. We have to approach the game the right way and do the things that we need to do well. If we do that, we’ll feel great about it. If we don’t, then all bets are off. Ultimately, what it all comes down to is playing the game with our tempo, our energy, our physicality. I don't think anybody can play with us when we do that.”